Mozilla 0.9.9 Browser-Suite Sneak Preview
Mike Angelo -- 9 March 2002 (c)
The Mozilla Organization has not yet released the Milestone 0.9.9 edition of its Mozilla browser suite. The latest Mozilla roadmap calls for Mozilla Milestone 0.9.9 to have been released 1 March 2002. However, MozillaQuest Magazine snuck a peak at some Mozilla 0.9.9 branch builds that should be pretty close to the final 0.9.9 release build.
Mozilla 0.9.9 is the last planned milestone before the scheduled April 2002 Mozilla 1.0 release. In the beta -> release candidate -> shipping version software development schema, Mozilla 0.9.9 is, in effect, analogous to a final-product release-candidate. Although Mozilla 0.9.9 overall seems to be the best Mozilla milestone yet, it's really not final release-candidate quality. More about that further down.
The favicons (shortcut icons) that were added in Mozilla 0.9.6 and then turned off in Mozilla 0.9.8 have been turned on again in the Mozilla 0.9.9 branch builds we checked. Otherwise, on the surface there were no changes since Mozilla 0.9.8 that particularly hit us in the face. Mozilla 0.9.9 looks and feels pretty much as Mozilla 0.9.8 looks and feels -- at least in a quick test drive. Figure 1, below, is a screen shot of a Mozilla 0.9.9 branch build we tried.
Still noticeably absent from Mozilla is a spell checker. There is no spell checker for the e-mail and news editor -- or for the Web pages Composer module. It is somewhat disappointing that after some four calendar years and more than 1,000 person-years in development, the Mozilla browser suite does not have a spell checker for its mail, news, and Composer modules.
We took a 7 March 2002, Mozilla 0.9.9, branch build for a quick spin on a medium performance PC. The test box was a Windows 98 SE desktop with a 300-MHz AMD K6 CPU, and 128-MB RAM.
At first blush, Mozilla 0.9.9 seems to be less of a RAM hog than Mozilla 0.9.8, which memory-wise was an improvement over previous milestones. However, Mozilla runs more slowly than other applications run on that test box, thus suggesting that Mozilla still is a system-resources hog.
The Mozilla 0.9.9 branch build we took for a quick spin is more crash-prone than recent, previous, Mozilla milestones -- crashing several times in less than two hours of testing. Incidentally, a Bugzilla query today for new, assigned, and open bugs with the keyword "crash" turned up 512 bugs. Seventy-eight of those bugs are for all platforms, 342 for PC, and 61 for Mac.
Mozilla still has lots of annoying bugs and behaviors. There are pages that display correctly with the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser that do not display correctly with the Mozilla browser.All-in-all, the Mozilla browser-suite still does not offer any compelling, performance reason for people to switch from Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser to AOL-Netscape's Mozilla browser. On the basis of overall browser look, feel, and performance, Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser still is a better choice than AOL-Netscape's Mozilla browser.
Lots of Bugs for Mozilla 1.0
Release of Mozilla 0.9.9 signals that finally after four-years in development, Mozilla 1.0 is on its way soon. However, some in the Mozilla community question whether Mozilla 1.0 should be released in April 2002. One major concern is that there are too many open bugs in Mozilla.
We addressed some of these concerns in our article, Mozilla Milestone 0.9.9 Branched Behind Schedule. In that article, we noted that on 1 March, there were some 12,137 targeted new, assigned, and reopened Mozilla bugs and 21,199 new, assigned, and reopened bugs (open/unfixed bugs) altogether. However, it appeared that only 1,575 bugs were set to be fixed before Mozilla 1.0 is released.
There were more bugs in Mozilla yesterday than there were a week ago when Mozilla 0.9.9 was branched. Yesterday, there were 12,216 targeted, new, assigned, and reopened Mozilla bugs and 21,341 new, assigned, and reopened bugs (open/unfixed bugs) altogether.
Table 1, below, is a breakdown of the 12,216 targeted new, assigned, and reopened Mozilla bugs. The 0.9.1 through Mozilla 1.0 targeted new, assigned, and reopened bugs are bugs that the Mozilla developers say they plan to fix by the time they release Mozilla 1.0. The difference between all targeted bugs and those bugs targeted to be fixed by the time Mozilla 1.0 is released is the set of targeted new, assigned, and reopened bugs that will be in Mozilla 1.0 when it is released.
Table 2, below is a comparison of the set of targeted new, assigned, and reopened bugs that will be in Mozilla 1.0 when it is released as it stood on the day Mozilla 0.9.9 was branched, 1 March, and yesterday, 8 March. Please note the grand total increase in bugs that are planned to be left unfixed for Mozilla 1.0 rose from 10,532 on 1 March to 10,976 on 8 March -- an increase of 444 bugs in only one week. (A 393 unfixed, problem-bugs increase from 1 March to 8 March.)
Bugs Still Are Causing Problems
For some time now, Mozilla milestone editions have been plagued with late or clumsy branchings and delayed releases. Bug problems and a clumsy branching resulted in a delay of four days in the Mozilla 0.9.6 release.
Mozilla Milestone 0.9.7 also was buggy and endured a clumsy branching. However, the Mozilla folks were able to get Mozilla Milestone 0.9.7 out the door on schedule.
Mozilla 0.9.8 should have branched on Friday, 18 January 2002. However, it was not branched until 24 January -- because there were too many serious bugs. Moreover, the Milestone 0.9.8 branch was cut with too many unfixed bugs in it that still were targeted to the 0.9.8 milestone.
The bug-driven delay in branching along with the all the unfixed, 0.9.8 bugs pushed the Milestone 0.9.8 release back from 25 January 2002 until 4 February 2002 -- a ten-day delay.
Bugs delayed the Mozilla 0.9.9 branch a week from the scheduled 22 February 2002 to 2 March 2002. Mozilla 0.9.9 has yet to be released. That's already an eight-day, bug-driven, delay since the scheduled 1 March Mozilla 0.9.9 release date.
Mozilla's out-of-control bug problem resulted in at least a one-week delay in its 0.9.9 milestone release, a ten-day delay in the Mozilla 0.9.8 release, and a four-day delay in release of milestone 0.9.6.
The culprit, behind what now is becoming a regular clumsy and/or tardy Mozilla milestone branching and release process, appears to be the Mozilla bugs problem. The Mozilla developers are continually failing to get the bugs targeted to milestones fixed before the scheduled milestone branching dates. Moreover, the Mozilla developers do not seem to be very effective in keeping buggy code from getting into the development tree.
The preceding bugs discussion has focused on the impact of Mozilla's bugs on the development process. Just as important as that, if not even more important, is how the Mozilla bugs hit users. If the Mozilla bugs for the most part trivial or only rarely occurring, then end-users likely are not going to be very upset by the bugs, However, if the bugs are more noticeable, annoying, disruptive, or result in data loss, system crashes, or application lock-ups, then users likely are going to be rather upset.
That said, the more bugs in a program the more likely users will notice them and the more likely they will be annoyed by them. Bugs in milestone development releases are understandable although not a good thing. However, releasing a Mozilla 1.0 that is so buggy could be Mozilla's death knell. More than 12,200 targeted-bugs and more than 21,300 open bugs in Mozilla is just too darn many bugs for a Mozilla 1.0 offering.
Incidentally, a Bugzilla query today for open bugs with the keyword crash turned up more than 500 hits. That's not a very pretty picture.
All this bug stuff can be confusing. The most important point is that Mozilla 0.9.9 includes not merely the bugs targeted to 0.9.9. Rather, Mozilla 0.9.9 includes all 21,300 un-fixed new, assigned, and reopened Mozilla bugs. The Mozilla 0.9.9-targeted bugs is merely a subset of the more than 21,300 un-fixed new, assigned, and reopened Mozilla bugs.
Following past practices, the Mozilla developers fixed only some of the bugs targeted to Mozilla 0.9.9. Then they merely swept the rest under the carpet, so to speak, by re-assigning the remaining bugs to other targets in order to try to maintain schedule. Please see our 0.9.4 branching article, Mozilla 0.9.4 Branched -- Behind Schedule & Buggier Than Ever, for more detail and information about the Mozilla bugs.
Incidentally, please check the MozillaQuest Magazine front-page (mozillaquest.com) sidebar every now and then for bug-count updates and for upcoming Mozilla Milestone 0.9.9 progress updates. MozillaQuest Magazine will have the Mozilla 0.9.9 final release information and download links as soon as Mozilla 0.9.9 is released. Please check the MozillaQuest Magazine front page regularly for Mozilla 0.9.9 final release news.
In the meantime, if you would like to give a Mozilla 0.9.9 branch build (release candidate) a try, download a copy and take it for a test drive.
Mozilla pre-1.0 Milestone and daily development builds normally are available for the BSD, Linux, Macintosh, Microsoft Windows, OS/2, Sun, and several UNIX platforms. Source code usually is available if you want to custom compile your own Mozilla builds.
Please see our article, Mozilla Roadmap Update: Mozilla 1.0 Set Back to April 2002, for more information about the October 2001 Mozilla Development Roadmap and development schedule revisions. There is lots of bug information in that article too. For the revised post-Mozilla 1.0 development roadmap and plan please see our article, Moz 1.0 April Release Confirmed & Post-1.0 Development Plan Announced.